Tag Archive | Bali

Eat, pray, love & yawn!

The bad thing about anticipation is that when the thing anticipated arrives, it isn’t quite what one’s overworked imagination had led one to expect.

This kind of anti climax had hit me often enough — and one think I would have learnt! –the most recent being that stupid episode of trying to employ a second foreign domestic worker for the household, so that I could have more free time to do the things I want to do, rather than doing the things I must do or see chaos on the home front.

It happened to me again today, though by contrast to the FDW episode it was just a blip on my continuum and almost cost-free –moneywise that is.

I’m referring to going to see the much touted and written about film, Eat Pray Love, based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert at the Tanglin Club this afternoon.

I had looked forward to seeing again the beautiful sceneries from Bali — a place I’ve visited quite a bit over the years — which is the anchor for the Love part of the film.

Again, like the FDW with five previous employers I signed on, ignoring the obvious, the reviews of the movie were far from singularly enamoured.

The story line is hackneyed: a magazine writer from a rich city — New York– looking for herself, across exotic locales. She gave up marriage and a fling — but not exactly her career since she had a book deal in her bag about her upcoming adventures be4 she set off.

She headed not exactly into the great unknown, as Italy (Rome and Naples) and an ashram in India aren’t the equivalent of Antartica! As for Bali, from the film it doesn’t look as though she did very much, other than talk “cute” with a fortune-telling toothless old man called Ketut and an unlikely looking jamu lady called Wayan!

It is in the names of these characters that made me decide Liz Gilbert’s adventures — at least in Bali — seems so much phooey. In all my trips to Bali, I’ve never met a woman named Wayan nor a man named Ketut. It’s always been the other way around!  

And frankly, I don’t know what kind of a house Gilbert’s jamu lady friend managed to build using the USD18,000 that the American raised to help Wayan-jamu realise her “dream” of owning a home!

Worse, at the close of the film, Gilbert, suddenly realising that she loved the Brazilian courting her, dashed madly to his house lto tell him that she had changed her mind about rejecting him. Not finding him, she left a note that said “Meet me at the jetty at sunset”.

All I could think was: goodness, woman, u never heard of cell phone?

So yes, I agree with the reviewers in Yahoo who slammed the movie in the following examples:

  • What I really hated: boring and unnecessarily long …a good medication for sleep challenged people.I slept thru 60 % of the movie duration. it was painfully slow, long and boring
  • If you don’t have the energy to stay and sit for quite some time, you better not choose to watch this movie.

Still, Elizabeth Gilbert’s book has sold more than 7 million copies so there must have been real gems that had possibly been filtered out from the celluloid version.

Now I must go and read the book!

Also, the real Liz Gilbert looks a lot prettier (see pic) than her screen version. Alas, Julia Robert is pretty woman no more!

far better than Julia Roberts

Mama mia, pasta brava?

Time was, Italian cuisine was so rare in Singapore, we had only one such restaurant of note and that was La Taverna, first sited on Tanglin Road, then later on Emerald Hill Road. Those were the days when I thought it so cool and chic to be taken for a meal there…

Then somehow La Taverna disappeared only to reappear in Sanur in Bali but I am not sure if a) it’s the same LT from my youth and b) if it’s still there, as it’s been a few years since I’ve gone to Bali.

This is a preamble to extol Pasta Brava on Craig Road which I visited last week, guest of JC who works for the man having a 20% interest in the restaurant and also owns the building in which it is located.

For a more complete history of Pasta Brava go here but where I’m concerned it’s of the same lineage as La Taverna, not Pasta Fresca or Da Paolo which in different ways have lost their original shine that had attracted me initially: the served Italian food that’s different from La Taverna!

Perhaps Pasta Brava’s longevity lay in the fact that unlike the other two, it never tried to expand; rather it tried to close but somehow managed to keep going and is well on the way ot its big Two O.

As for JC’s treat, this is the 2nd time in December that I’m being taken there. Perhaps JC is trying to start a tradition of buying me a pre-X’mas meal at Pasta Brava? :-D Just bring ‘em on every year, u hear!

Without more ado, here is what we had: solid good food with no pretensions and in such generous portions that we ended the meal not with tiramisu but a lime sorbet each to help with the digestion!

It could have been a home-cooked meal in a good friend’s home, except for the fact that we were surrounded by strangers in a packed restaurant — despite the fact that it was a week day and we weren’t exactly next to Tanjong Pagar MRT station!

we started with bruschetta

parma on melon to share

JC's substantial beans n sausages

my generous salmon panfried

Cowboys in Paradise?

I took a look at the trailer teaser on the documentary entitled Cowboys in Paradise which has upset the Balinese by its imputation that Bali boys are sex toys for female tourists.

As a long time fan of Bali who has travelled there more times than I’ve been anywhere else in Asia, I think the documentary has been intentionally provocative by making what’s a minor activity that can occur anywhere, even right here in Singapore, into a major activity, if not attraction, of the island.

hotel attraction

Bali has many attractions like food, shopping, super hotels, culture, sea, beaches and a certain mysticism, but alas its indigenous men are rather sub-standard when compared to its other lures.

The Balinese authorities by kicking up a fuss over Cowboys may be unintentionally helping the film and its Singapore-based Indian national director Mr Amit Virmani, in his 30s and a first-time documentary film-maker, gain more attention than either would have otherwise done — because sex for hire is such a big yawn in today’s widely permissive climate.

The authorities should instead take a closer look at who is behind the truly vituperative  blog  that has been spewing its poison against all things Bali for more than two years. I am of course referring to http://balibollocks.blogspot.com

If anyone deserves to be hauled over the coals it is the person/people behind the blog.

As for Mr Virmani, the next time he wants material for a documentary to raise eyebrows and perhaps cause controversy, he should first take a stroll across the beach from Petitenget to where the Oberoi is in Seminyak!

Taxi-drivers: lost without direction

When an old friend back home in Singapore from the UK for her regular holiday complained about how clueless Singapore’s taxi-drivers are about directions compared to those in her adopted home, I listened half-heartedly.

Yeh, I thought to myself, your place is in Keng Chin Road, not the best known place in Singapore, unlike Orchard Road or Geylang.

I was soundly punished for such mean unsympathetic thoughts this morning.

I was going to the official opening of a friend’s hard-won enterprise and would have driven direct to the venue, had it not been for the sudden and heavy downpour that refused to go away.

Being always kiasu, I decided that the venue might not have enough car park lots and so compromised by driving half-way and parking at Bugis Junction — one of yours truly’s regular haunts — and continuing my journey from there by cab.

I was fearful that there might not be taxis and so rushed anxiously towards the North Bridge Road stand outside the covered walkway that lined one side of the Intercontinental Hotel/Bugis Junction complex.

Luck was with me. Two taxis at the stand, the first a Trans Cab, the second a Premier taxi. And no competing passengers in sight.

Got into the Trans Cab and stated my destination. Deathly silence and the driver made no attempt to drive the vehicle.

“Do you know how to get to Keppel Towers?” I asked, slightly irritated.

“No,” the taxi-driver shot back.

“Sorry?”

“You better take the taxi behind,” was the reply.

I was really taken aback by this but because time was tight, I didn’t want to hang around arguing. So I got out but I gave a parting shot in Putonghua which was simply “you are ridiculous!” or “你是荒谬的”.

That seemed to startle him in return and be4 I could close the door, he asked, a little contritely: “Do you know how to get there?”

But I wasn’t going to give him a second chance for who knew what might happen once we were on our way! I slammed shut the door and went to the Premier taxi behind, got in and found a most amenable taxi uncle. He knew the way, and drove fast but safely.

Altho I’m not into talking to taxi drivers as a general rule, I felt so incensed that I had to share my shock that there are cabs on our roads driven by people who don’t know the way and make no attempt to find out.

Keppel Towers may not be as famous as Vivocity or Raffles City but it’s still a prime office landmark in the heart of the city.

What’s a taxi driver doing inside the CBD — which the Trans Cab was — and declaring that he had no idea how to get there? Shouldn’t he have a road directory at least or a number at his hirer’s office to call to give him directions?

Even in Bali which is far less developed than Singapore in all ways, the taxis I’ve taken –always Blue Bird — have drivers who have the initiative to find out from their office, when they don’t know. Some even have GPS to guide them. And the “gangs” (tiny lanes) in Bali are far more difficult to locate than any of Singapore’s roads.

Ditto for the taxi drivers I’ve come across in Shanghai. I’ve got them to locate out of the way places that they didn’t always know and yes, they found out, by calling their office or stopping by the roadside  to ask passers by or even while waiting at traffic lights, the vehicle next to them.

So why are our clueless taxi drivers in Singapore not more proactive? Not hungry enough? Driving taxis as a hobby? Or simply because our Land Transport Authority is too lax with them?

Stay in hotel or with friends?

This is a question that always vexes me when I travel.

Stay with friends and save on hotel money, have some company and also be certain that the accommodation is safe ( ;) too many stories about haunted rooms, you see).

Stay in a hotel, not knowing who or what had been there before you; waste good money when you are hardly there enough to justify the price etc.

Of cos, put like that, there seems to be no contest, but that is to load the stay-with-friends option with all the good things and the stay-in-a-hotel option with all the bad things.

In truth, the drawback to staying with friends isn’t minor. When you are the guest in someone’s home, even a very good friend’s home, you have to obey his/her house rules and some of them could strangle a potentially good holiday.

I know of a Singapore woman, settled in New York, who is such a neat-freak that guests don’t dare put down their cups after sipping, because she whips them to the dish washer, even if the coffee is only half-finished. They don’t dare to leave their beds to go to the toilet early in the morning, because when they go back for a further snooze, the bed is already made.

I myself had experienced something similar when staying with a Malaysian friend who had settled in Switzerland. She dries her stainless steel sink so thoroughly after every use that no water mark ever appears to mar the shiny surface. And she expects the guest who should touch the sink to do the same!

And when I stay with friends in Malaysia, they somehow give me the impression that the whole country is unsafe, insisting on accompanying me everywhere I wanted to go, or if they can’t, they will make me stay home till they are free to take me, as exemplified by a visit to Penang I made late in 2008.

An even worse experience was a stay at an ex-colleague’s Bali home. The hostess, whom I’ve known for decades, is a very temperamental person and for whatever reason, during that visit she was downright hostile and rude to me throughout.

When I tell people about that experience, they suspect I exaggerate, as they can’t imagine I would suffer the insults for more than one minute, without packing up and checking into a hotel.  

In retrospect, I too wonder at myself. I put it down to the fact that I wanted to save the friendship but on returning home and on calmer reflection, I decided that there was really no friendship to begin with.

Thus the next time my erstwhile hostess made contact, I simply cut her dead, something that was a bit belated but nevertheless still gave me a kick!

So there’s some wisdom in my mother’s stand, that if she doesn’t have money for hotels, she won’t travel (altho she did accompany me to visit friends, once in New York and another time in Hongkong — not the most enjoyable of her trips, I suspect, even tho, she being an elder, my friends were more accommodating with her than with me!).

My mother isn’t alone in her stand, as I stumbled by chance on this declaration by Siutuapui, a Sibu-based prolific bogger, whose site I dug through recently, looking for nuggets of information on Kuching, where I would be heading in a couple of weeks.

The Sibu pacik wrote: “I prefer staying in hotels. Every time I travel, I will gracefully decline any invitation to stay at someone’s house, never mind whether it’s a relative or friend. Maybe it is because I used to travel a lot when I was still in government service and I stayed in hotels all the time…and I enjoyed the freedom and the privacy.”

I had begun to think like my mother and Siutuapui too, especially after the Penang experience, till I remember there are hosts/hostesses who are mostest by doing the least for their guests.

I always remember with pleasure my visit to MK in Shanghai in 2006. She just let LW (who travelled with me) and me have free run of her home, which was most central and convenient, since it was on Huaihai Lu.

She didn’t offer to show us the sights and we met for meals only if convenient, so neither she nor we felt obliged to work to the same time-table. She didn’t “look” after us yet she did enough to make us welcome, without suffocating us.

So we had the best of both worlds, a safe, comfortable and clean place to stay but with the freedom we enjoyed, we could have been in a hotel — but without any price tags.

My conclusion is this: I would stay in a hotel only if the friend who invited is more likely to spoil my holiday than improve it. And the best way to improve my stay is generally to leave me alone!

Eastward ho…

Ever since I went to Amy’s home in the eastern side of Singapore at the end of last month and documented it in this post, I found myself heading to that corner of the island two more times in the last three weeks.

First, I was back at the Holy Family Church, two Fridays ago, not to attend mass but to park “illegally” in its carpark, something I’m told it’s OK to do by one of its parishioners and staunch volunteer at the church.

This friend suggested that I did that, when inviting me to eat at Cafe Oliv that was about a 100 metres from the church, as many of the worshippers leave the cars in the carpark after mass too.

Cafe Oliv is a delight. Quietly stylish. No wonder this friend was so adamant I tried it. We had set dinner.  It was a Friday night and the cafe was respectfully full. Still, the service was good, the meal at $16 (I think, as I didn’t pick up the bill) excellent value for three courses + coffee.

What do I consider good service? Cheerful and amenable, for a start. When I said I didn’t want linguini with the grilled scallops as my main, I was offered alternative pasta with alacrity.

I chose spaghetti as I dislike both linguini and penne. Spaghers was done just right. Al dente without being raw. The four scallops which came with the pasta weren’t what I had been expecting but the plump in-their-shell kind that I got so addicted to in Bintan and Bali — so they turned out to be a very pleasant and tasty suprise…. and so fresh that I could hear the waves of the sea from whence they had been plucked.

yummy to the last morsel

The soup which kicked off the meal was a cream of mushroom, with plenty of fresh mushroom in it, and came with two bread wedges that were crisp without being tough to the bite.

The meal ended with a brownie topped with ice-cream. I asked for my ice-cream to be served separately, as I like to put it into my coffee in lieu of milk. The wait staff obliged, as they did our request to have our coffee at half strength.

The brownie was moist and choclaty in the nicest way. The coffee was of just the right strength and I had no problem sleeping at my usual witching hour.

soup and bread

sweet ending

Sunday nite  (March 14) saw ex-colleague ML (whose late mum’s memorial mass  at the Holy Family Church I attended earlier this year) treating me to a meal at Mana Mana Beach Club at the East Coast Lagoon.

ML had waxed lyrical about the place and especially the band which played there on  Sunday nites. I would rather go there at any time but the week-end as I’m following a Korean serial — Honor of Family — and loath to miss any episodes from its week-end screening on Channel U.

So I went to Mana Mana reluctantly. OK, it’s a nice enough beach-side cafe and the food it served was up to beach-side standards. The wait staff were jolly and friendly in the usual beach-side style: breezy and bosomy. But, and a strong but, it’s far more manicured than the Mana Mana original I knew and fondly remembered in Bintan.

The reason for ML’s strong desire to be at Mana Mana on a Sunday nite was clearly the band and in particular, the lead singer, a gravelly voiced local-born Filipino (so he said) who took requests to sing old-time fav songs.

He took my request (Hotel California) and promised to sing more from the Eagles like Tequila Sun Rise etc but after my fav, I didn’t hang around till the turn for my next request was sung. I might have, had he been a younger singer but I wasn’t going to waste beauty sleep waiting for a singer wannabee from yesterday to play my favourite tune.

Yup, I’m that superficial.

Still, there’s one point worth noting. The band also plays at Mana Mana on Wednesday nites and hopes to draw a bigger following beyond ML with a one-for-one beer/wine promotion.

Drink to that anyone?

Woman who sued Novena priests?

One runs into the most unexpected people at Great World City. Two posts ago, I recorded that i ran into Nanyang Technological University’s president emeritius DR Cham Tao Soon and Sheila Eu (daughter of Eu Tong Sen) at the GWC food court on Monday.

Then on Friday when I went to GWC to load up on fish and meat for the week-end, guess who I saw as I headed for Cold Storage supermarket?

There she was sitting on the bench outside Veronica’s, the florist, facing Ichiban Boshi, the Japanese restaurant. I did a double take. Stared. Slowed my strides to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me.

My mind went back to the screeds that I had read about her over the years in the newspapers. Perhaps she would turn into a snake and hiss and slither. Perhaps it wasn’t her? I’d better not catch her eye…

I tried to dismiss her face as I went about my food shopping and it was only after I checked out that I remembered I had forgotten to get some flowers for the altars at home for Vesak. Heck, now got to buy them from Veronica’s which is always so pricey.

Then I saw the woman who sued the Novena priests in the high profile case had gone. I was glad as I felt a certain uneasiness with her around.

After settling for two pricey stalks of tuber rose at $3.50 per stalk, only to be told on payment (after the flowers were wrapped), that I needed to pay 40 cents more for GST, I suddenly noticed that the woman hadn’t “gone” — she had moved to the bench facing the escalators  connecting the basement with Level 1.

Goodness, was she waiting for someone? Could I move pass her quickly enough, in case she morphs into a snake… eeks, with such uncomfortable thoughts, I stole glances at her from the corners of my eyes, as I negotiated my trolley to the escalator to B2 carpark.

The woman looked forlorn and harmless enough but who knows for heaven’s sake! Perhaps it wasn’t her but last night, I googled the case on google images and found photos that confirmed it was the Novena woman I saw all right.

It’s difficult not to feel sorry for her yet given the psychological problems the Court was told she was suffering from, it makes me wonder whether she shouldn’t be taken into care, for her sake as well as that of the public?

I know I would have a fright should she pull her snake stunt when I’m around.. meanwhile, I don’t think I want to buy from Veronica’s again — far better tuber roses cost about 1,000 to 2,000 rupiah a stalk in Bali! And I was charged more than 10 times that in Singapore. Ridiculous!

$7.40 for two stalks from Veronica's

$7.40 for two stalks from Veronica's